Companies commonly make one of two mistakes when selecting a product owner. Often they tap a junior employee with limited experience and therefore a limited understanding of how the project fits into the larger mission. Product owners need enough seniority to inspire and motivate peers across multiple business units. By earning the respect of teams in customer experience, enterprise architecture, and risk and compliance, for example, the product owner can help ensure that projects move smoothly without costly bottlenecks. Other companies err in the opposite direction, selecting a senior executive who is too harried to devote adequate time and may not adapt well to the highly responsive, iterative nature of agile development.
So what should companies look for when appointing product owners? In our view, the key is to find people who think and behave like entrepreneurs.
Much of the advice here falls under the category of “if you do good things, good things happen”:
success comes from simply managing a sound process: conducting market research, understanding the customer’s needs, identifying where the product will create the most value, prioritizing the most important features, testing ideas, capturing customer feedback, and continuously refining their vision over time.
The tasks is setting up and environment, processes, even “culture” that encloses and rewards good behavior like this. And the protecting that structure from corporate barbarians. That’s a job – and the responsibility – of management. So, perhaps it’s good to get some management consulting advice on what good looks like.